No criminal connect with Delhi riots, argues Umar Khalid; HC reserves order on bail plea

PTI, Sep 9, 2022, 8:54 PM IST

PTI Photo

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday reserved its order on a bail plea by Umar Khalid in a UAPA case related to the alleged conspiracy behind the riots here in February 2020 as the former JNU student contended that he neither had any “criminal role” in the violence nor any “conspiratorial connect” with any other accused in the matter.

Khalid, arrested by Delhi Police in September 2020, said that there was no material to support the case of the prosecution against him and that he raised issues that several others were discussing in the other country, including those concerning the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Maintaining that there was nothing illegal in raising such issues, he also said that his Amravati speech -– which forms the basis of the allegations against him -– not only had a categorical call for non-violence but also did not lead to violence anywhere.

Accusing the prosecution of “making stuff up as it went along”, he argued that parts of the Delhi police charge sheet have no basis and the conspiracy alleged by the prosecution should be “towards violence in Delhi” and not “raising issues of injustice”.

“The only overt act attributed to me (by the prosecution) is the speech (in Amravati in Maharashtra)… that was a public event. That did not lead to violence anywhere. To simplify and say ‘oh that speech in Amaravati was targeted towards Delhi’ (is not right). Donald Trump went to Ahmedabad also (and there was no violence there). We have the liberty to travel anywhere to India and make speeches if we want to,” senior advocate Trideep Pais, appearing for Khalid, told a bench headed by Justice Siddharth Mridul.

“My speech has a categorical call for non-violence and I request your lordship to read the speech as a whole and not in the manner in which my learned friend (prosecutor) wants to dissect it, take one sentence and then place it on his own conjecture… This speech does not show any conspiratorial connect with anybody, any other accused, or any violence whatsoever,” he further told the bench, also comprising Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar.

Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and several others have been booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the ”masterminds” of the February 2020 riots, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

The violence erupted during the protests against CAA and NRC.

The court had issued notice to the Delhi Police on Khalid’s bail plea in April.

The Delhi Police, represented by special public prosecutor Amit Prasad, has opposed the bail plea by Khalid saying the speech delivered by him in Amravati in February 2020 was a “very calculated speech” which brought various points including Babri Masjid, triple talaq, Kashmir, suppression of Muslims and Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“Is the opposition to Article 370 or the abolition of triple talaq or the CAA illegal in itself? No. To show that two persons are opposed to the CAA – there are several. Former judges have made statements against CAA,” Pais argued on Friday as he submitted that other than showing “commonality of thinking”, the police has not shown criminal “meeting of minds” to sustain a case of conspiracy.

The senior lawyer emphasised that there were no allegations of “advocating chakka jam” against him and considering that the investigation was still going on and the case, which is still at the stage of supply of documents prior to trial, has 850 witnesses, Khalid should be released.

Further contending that the present FIR which pertains to the larger conspiracy behind the riots” has no connection with the 750 other FIRs registered by Delhi police, Pais said, “While your lordship is looking at my criticism of the charge sheet, I request your lordship, take an overall view whether this charge sheet with all its little-little pieces put together (shows that) there was a conspiracy with absolutely no link to the actual violence in Delhi or to my role or my role being criminal in any way.” He asserted that “contradictions” in the case that go to the “root of the matter,” witness statements do not support the allegations against him and there were no incriminating recoveries.

“You say Bangladeshi women were transported to the protest site without actually showing that are Bangladeshi women. Second, was a group of women travelling in a bus to attend a protest illegal? None of these glass bottles or chilli powder find their way to recovery as stated by the witnesses. The prosecution makes up stuff as it goes along. Many parts of the charge sheet have absolutely no basis” he said.

Earlier, the prosecution argued that riots happened in two phases, first in 2019 and then in February 2020, and that misinformation was spread during the riots apart from blockade of roads causes, attacks on police personnel and paramilitary forces, violence in non-Muslim areas, etc.

It has contended that the speeches delivered by various accused in the case have one common factor — “the essence was to create a sense of fear in the Muslim population”.

While referring to certain speeches made by Khalid and other accused, the prosecutor had said, “when you talk about Babri Masjid or triple talaq, they relate to a religion. But when you talk about Kashmir, it is not an issue of religion, it is an issue of national integration”.

He had contended that these accused were connected at the relevant time as a part of the conspiracy for rioting.

Besides Khalid, activist Khalid Saifi, JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain and several others have also been booked under the stringent law in the case.

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